Bedtime reading

I have barely had any time for reading lately. I checked out a handful of books from the library months ago and some are still unread. They are due back this month, so a week ago I decided that I HAD to read them, and I finally dived into one: Mo Yan’s Sandlewood Death.

Soldier firing  a rifle

I wish I had started it sooner. It’s a fine book to read when you don’t have time. I’ve been averaging about 5 pages a night, but this book is so rich that in those five pages I usually have already marveled at some myth or experienced a trauma. There is no exposition that doesn’t link back into the greater themes that Mo Yan is attempting to touch on. There is no scene that doesn’t cause me to laugh or grimace.

I am enjoying this book so much that I am actually reading even less than I would given my time constraints. I always alight upon a sentence that’s too exquisite to read once. I have to backtrack and read it aloud to my boyfriend. This usually leads to confusion on his part–“Wait, why is there a beard contest?”–and then I have to backtrack and retell the story in my own words. He’s come to look forward to updates on the lives of Sun Bing and Magistrate Qian and Sun Meiniang. I certainly didn’t expect to get this sort of pleasure out of what appears to be a rather grim tome (the plot conerns painful forms of torture), yet my boyfriend and I are reacting to it with the same enthusiasm that we usually reserve for our latest Netflix binge du jour.

(As an aside, Sandalwood Death is on my list of predictions for the 2014 Best Translated Book Award.)

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